I must say... I'm a huge Sonic the Hedgehog fan, since at least 20 years ago. And yes, I saw it growing from the first Master System and Game Gear games to its top 3D performances on Dreamcast and Playstation2 (and counting). There are some obvious differences between the early games and the new ones, like the top velocity stuff, for example, which was no particularly needed on Master System games. Besides, Sonic Chaos was no fast at all. But are they still fun? Hell yeah.
The first game was packed with elements that every Sonic fan would like to see, although we didn't have loopings or that turbo-spinning stuff. For me, that game is awesome.
The second Sonic for Master System was not the less behind, though it was much harder. Another games were also fun too. (but if you want to try Sonic Spinball, do the Sega Genesis version)
Then, Sonic made its way to the stars with the remarkable Sega Genesis versions. The first game was awesome, but my favorite of all is Sonic 2. It was very cool to play with Tails running together, and the stages were the most impressive, with lots of speed and challenges. Sonic 3 and Sonic and Knuckles kicked ass too. Those games were all top of the pops, standing incredibly against the Super Mario Bros.
We also saw Sonic 's 3D debuting, Sonic Spinball and, after the Sega Genesis generation, a lot of new tries to get Sonic back to it's old form. The 32-bit generation saw almost nothing about Sonic. Only some nostalgia coming through Sonic Jam and some racing stuff from Sonic R, that had the best soundtrack ever.
Sonic Adventure, for the Sega Dreamcast, came as an earthquake. The whole world knew that something huge was coming. And yes, they were right. The game is freaking cool, there's a lot of new faces, we can see Sonic running top-speed with new generation looks, etc... But I wouldn't think of it as perfect, only the mark of a new era.
Sonic Advance looked like a new attempt back to the old roots. Did they make it? I'd say yes, the game is most cool. The new 2D sprites looked very pretty, the stages reminded a lot the old ones, and Sonic still had that "circling feet that means he's running a lot". (see image below) This most cool feature was never to see again in Sonic games. (I wonder why). Sonic Advance 2 and 3 were cool too, but I think they lost some of the essence found in the first title. And I won't say nothing about Sonic Battle. That game sucked.
Now... Any Playstation2 Sonic title that I came to play was truly disappointing. I always expected something like Sonic Adventure coming to it. Never happened. Sonic Heroes looks cool at first, but it is very chaotic (haha), the controls are very strange, etc. That Sonic Riders stuff and other games like it are just lots of attempts to make the Sonic franchise looks like Mario's does, selling millions of any stuff they make. Sonic Unleashed brings me to my nerves. The game is most childish and slow. The plot about the Were-Sonic is terrible. I dunno what to do with this game.
Sonic Rush for DS is kinda cool, but it has its problems. The Rush Adventure has a lot of trash talking between the stages. I don't think that is a cool feature.
I wonder if someday they would succeed in bringing Sonic back to the old form again. I think they are killing the character, and I'm very sad with that. We don't need 3D gameplay! Just give us some side-scrolling in 3D graphics and we're okay, but do make a real Sonic game! We only need Sonic, Tails and Knuckles. Fine?